I still remember the day I got my first fishing pole. It was a white Shakespeare WonderRod with a closed faced Zebco 202 reel.
Unlike the bike I rode at the time, my first fishing rod was not a "hand me down" item. It was a birthday present and it was brand new. I spent as much time practice casting in the backyard as I did on the river.
Currently, according to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, there are more than 50 million active anglers in the United States.
The vast majority of active anglers claim they learned to fish because "someone" once took the time to introduce them to the sport. Typically, it was a father, uncle or grandfather that provided this introduction. However, in recent years there have been some dramatic shifts in American society. Today, nearly 50 percent of American children are raised in a single parent family. In 2008, our society passed another threshold as more children were born to an unwed mother than to wedded couples.
Nearly 67 percent of all anglers claim that "Dad" took them on their first fishing trip. If "Dad" has a diminishing role in introducing new anglers today, and others don't step in to fill the void, how will the sport of angling be passed to future generations? The gift of fishing is still something special and those who don't fish may never know what they have missed, unless those of us who fish take the opportunity to share it.
Fishing with children: Do it now
Recreational boating and fishing rank high among America's favorite sporting activities. More people fish than play golf and tennis combined. The surest way to ensure longevity of the sport is by increased public awareness. Children that become committed anglers quickly develop an awareness and appreciation of the need for protecting, conserving and restoring America's aquatic natural resources.
Today's children will be the the next generation of American anglers, or not. With the vast angling resources available across the Adirondacks, parents and educators, it would be negligent to deny children the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively utilize such resources.
As a parent, I'd prefer that my child was out wading on a local stream than hanging out on a street corner.
Tips and techniques
for young anglers
There are a few key points that parents should be aware of when venturing out with children on an angling adventure. You don't need a boat full of fancy gear. Often, it's much easier to fish from shore. Always be positive and enthusiastic; make fishing a fun and enjoyable activity.
Let the kids gain competency by practice casting on the lawn at home. Provide a target such as an apple basket to improve accuracy.
Watch the weather and insure that outings are short, exciting and productive. Pick a place that is easy to get to, comfortable, and safe.
Bring along plenty of snacks, lunch, water, sunscreen, insect repellent, swimsuits, towels and first aid basics.
Make the trip comfortable for everyone and above all have patience with snagged lines, lost tackle and missed fish. Praise them often, you will accomplish more with positive feedback than a reprimand.
Target species most likely for success such as perch, sunnies or rock bass and use live bait such as worms, minnows or grasshoppers.
They don't have to catch the largest fish in the pond, but due to a shorter attention span, they must have activity. The key point is to fish where action is assured to avoid boredom. Keep it simple and use reliable equipment that is intended for novices. A short rod with a push button, spin casting reel is much easier to use than a long rod with an open face spinning reel.
For smaller children, drill a hole in the handle of the rod and attach a lanyard. Tie the lanyard to the boat or a belt buckle in case they drop the rod. Often kids will release the whole rod when letting go of the 'push button' on the reel. This simple tip may save you from "fishing for a rod."
Crimp the barb on all hooks. This makes it much easier to release the fish, a kid or a parent.
Protect the children and make certain that they always wear sunglasses when anyone has a rod in hand. A barbless hook can easily be removed from a finger or a foot, but not from an eyeball.
Spread anglers out. Make certain they are at least 10 feet apart and watch for others before casting. Use a bobber if possible, it will provide a visual clue to signal a bite. It also gives kids something to watch to stay attentive.
Leave your rod at home since the trip is all about a kid's fishing adventure. If possible, bring along someone their age to share the adventure with.
Look for water bugs, turtles, frogs, beavers or loons. Let them play with minnows or worms. Let them experience nature. Most of all, fishing should be fun, not a chore.
Take a camera along. After the trip, get prints in the kid's hands as soon as possible, so they can share the adventure with others. Encourage them to write a short story to accompany the photos, it can provide helpful feedback for future trips.
Show respect for the environment and the water. Teach water safety and in a boat, make certain everyone wears a PFD (lead by example).
Make each outing an adventure. Involve children in the planning for the day, look over maps, draw up a list and let them assist in the decision making process.
It should be their special time! A big part of the fun is in the preparation. Let them help with the tackle, digging worms or catching grasshoppers.
Most of all, strive to depart before the fish do, always leave them wanting more.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org